Theatre Review: Ross: The Lives of Lawrence of Arabia

The fabled hero of the Arabian conflict is only one side of his story and, told from a military point of view, this play looks at the man inside the myth.

Presented by Independent Theatre
Reviewed 15 Nov 2016

There has been much written and said about Lawrence of Arabia: fact, fiction and myth. Terrence Rattigan’s play is another attempt to tear down the curtain of mystery that surrounds his life. The fabled hero of the Arabian conflict is only one side of his story and this is another way to look at the man inside the myth.

Rob Croser’s production faithfully portrays the era from a military point of view. With minimal sets and accurate uniforms, the picture is beautifully drawn. The desert backdrop smoothly becomes Arab tents, and the army huts quickly slide on and off. Add a few chairs and desks, and all is represented.

The cast is all male: soldiers of the British Army, the Turkish Army and the Arab tribes. It is a large cast but Croser has schooled them well and the action flows despite the wordiness and the length. Even the minor parts are well cast and the doubling (obviously necessary with so many characters) is well handled.

Will Cox captures the tortured soul that is Lawrence, displaying his many moods and his private anguish. This is another fine performance to add to his glowing repertoire. The Army Officers played by David Roach (General Sir Edmund Allenby) and Nick Buckland (Colonel Barrington) could have stepped out of a command post in WW1 whilst Lindsay Prodea as his friend, Ronald Storrs, had a more sympathetic feel, a touch more sympathy and less judgement.

In the early scenes when Lawrence is trying to disappear into anonymity as Ross, Mark Mulders, Stephen Schofield and Jett Zivjovic do well as R.A.F. cadets, with Laurence Croft as Flight Leiutenant Stoker, stiff necked and unbending and Brendan Cooney being the friendly Flight Sergeant Thompson. Croft, Mulders, Zitokovic all come back later as other officers and have well developed second characters. Prodea and Cooney do especially well with the character change.

Tom Carney is the documentary filmmaker (as he liked to be known), Lowell Thomas, and he relishes the showman-like qualities of the role. Auda Abu Tayi (an Arab leader) is sympathetically handled by Matthew Hein, as is the Turkish Military Governor played by Domenic Panuccio, who has good support from Johnathan Johnston (Turkish Captain) and Stephen Schofield (Sergeant). Lawrence’s Arab ‘bodyguards’ were good. Andre Vafiadis as Rashid conveyed his character with no dialogue and Thomas Tessema evoked empathy in his sensitive portrayal.

This is not an easy play, but despite its length it held my attention to the end. Well worth a look.

Reviewed by Fran Edwards
Twitter: @franeds

Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Featival Centre
Season: 11 – 19 Nov 2016
Duration: 2hr 40mins
Tickets: Adult $35, Conc $30, Student $18, Group $22
Bookings: or

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